The Electronic Portfolio - Organizing and Assessing Online Learning

Author Information
Judith Davidson
University of Massachusetts Lowell
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
University of Massachusetts Lowell
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

University of Massachusetts Lowell uses Intralearn to provide each student with an electronic portfolio.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

learning effectiveness: As an online instructor who taught for many semesters, a continuing problem I faced was how to organize student assignments efficiently so that both the student and I would have the materials available in one location. My online courses (Action Research and Planning, Technology, and School Improvement) typically involve a semester-long project that incorporates multiple stages of qualitative data collection. In my offline courses, students would build a notebook, similar to a portfolio, in which the various assignments would be organized as they built toward the final product. It is an approach that owes much to current thinking in the educational arena about authentic assessment and the development of portfolios and rubrics (Belanoff & Dickson, 1991; Wiggins, 1993d). At the end of the semester, I ask them to review their work and reflect upon the process and their learning. When I was translating my courses into an online format, I was frustrated by the limitations of the Learning Management System (Intralearn) and/or my understanding of its capacity to support my needs for student portfolios. My first solution was to have students email me their materials as attachments, but that quickly flooded my mailbox. Later strategies required me to retrieve assignment pieces from multiple locations. Students' misunderstandings about where to deposit materials created even more stress for the students and me. After several semesters of experimentation, I have come up with a solution that works with the structure of the Intralearn system to provide each individual student with an electronic portfolio in which they can build a record of their work across the semester. To create an Electronic Portfolio within Intralearn, I establish a lesson called Electronic Portfolio, which I insert as the last lesson on the syllabus. Inside the lesson area called Electronic Portfolio, I use the team feature to make each student a team of one. This way, only the student has access to the assigned team area. Each team area includes an electronic file cabinet where the student can store their class files. It is essential, I have learned, to develop standardized conventions for file names that students must use in posting products to the file cabinet. This will ensure that the contents of the file cabinet stay well organized. The result is a repository of materials created by the student, demonstrating his or her industry and growth across a semester's worth of work. By the end of the semester, a student cannot help but be impressed with this record of experience and change. Last but not least, I no longer have to spend days tracking down assignments that have vanished into the electronic ether. In assessing student work, I can point quickly and easily to strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, unlike offline classes where I must return the notebook portfolios at the end of the semester (or risk an office overflowing with papers), this online portfolio can continue to be a teaching resource for me over the years, allowing me to review the products of a course as I evaluate needed changes in course structure. As with many online innovations, I find that this one, too, has implications for my offline work. I now create electronic portfolio spaces for all of my courses (on and offline) so that each student in each class has a safe space to build the record of their course work.

References, supporting documents: 

Belanoff, P. & Dickson, M. (Eds.) (1991). Portfolios: Process and product. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Judith Davidson, Assistant Professor
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